The Complete Guide to Backing Turquoise
How and Why you do it!
Backing turquoise is a process where a type of epoxy is applied to the back of natural turquoise so that it will be strong and can endure the lapidary process and be made into a cabochon for jewelry that will stand the test of time.
The main reason for backing a natural stone is for strength. It also acts as a shock absorber once the stone is set in jewelry. When a stone is irregular and uneven on the bottom, backing the stone will level it out to keep the stone a larger size. Another reason is to add height to a stone that might be too thin, or the jeweler wants the stone to show proud. Some artists may even glue it to stronger stones to back it or put something underneath the stone to raise it. Backing a natural turquoise stone is industry standard and is recommended for a durable and long life.
Supplies you will need:
* Your Backing material of choice (Devcon, JB Weld etc...)
* Shallow mixing container or surface, you can use a used plastic container from cottage cheese etc., or even a cut off milk container bottom to mix the backing material in as it will be normally thrown away when you are done.
* Popsicle stick for mixing and applying to the stone
* Wax paper for the nonstick surface to place the freshly backed stone on.
You can also use a piece of plexi glass that is reusable.
To begin backing:
* Select the turquoise to be backed.
* Roughly shape the stones to the approximate size you want before
backing. You may also want to flatten any high spots off the side you will
* Clean the stones to remove any dust or debris to give better adhesion. Make sure they are dry as wet stones will not adhere well to the backing material. Compressed air works well for both drying and cleaning.
* Lay out wax paper or Plexi glass.
* Put the side you are backing facing up in one direction as not to get
confused. You don't want to accidentally put backing on the face.
* Mix the backing material thoroughly as the directions suggest. It is very important to follow directions on mixing two-part epoxies as improper mixing can cause irregular results. At this point, be ready to back because the backing dries quickly depending on if it is a 5-minute type or not. Some give much longer working times. So, make sure you choose the one that is right for you.
* Make sure you back the most desired pieces first. But also have a few extra stones ready as well, in case there is still some unused backing. It's expensive and you don’t want to waste it.
* Apply backing carefully to the back of each stone with a popsicle stick, filling any gaps so the stone is level. Be sure to apply neatly to avoid excess cleanup. For minimal clean up, try not to go up on the sides of the turquoise.
* Lay backed stone on waxed paper backing side down. You can give it a gentle push to flatten it and even it out. Don’t move it until dry. To avoid hardened clean up later, you can trim off any excess squished out backing with a knife. But still allow a small amount to grind off later.
Let dry the required hours, generally overnight. The backed turquoise should pull right off the wax paper or plexi. If applied neatly, there should be minimal cleanup. The hardened excess backing will easily grind off at the cab machine. Over excessive backing can be cut off with your rock saw or a low grit wheel.
Now your turquoise is ready to be cut into a beautiful stable cabochon for your jewelry.